Aaah baby purées, those swirly, smooth, colour-crazy nutrition paints. My tiny guy eats so well, and has been down so many avenues of flavour already, he’s all like, “not just crackers for me today, mom, what’s that new stuff?” Granted, not so much with his mono-syllabic commentary, but with his gooey cheek-spattered grins he says it. (I know this; we have a rapport).
It sometimes seems more convenient, to just serve little pieces of foods/leftovers and never bother with a blender at all. Baby-led weaning is a legit approach, and I feed him that way too, a lot, but via purées I can make a month’s worth of baby food in an hour or so, and incorporate all sorts of things he wouldn’t be able to eat otherwise. So, I blend.
And in case you were wondering if jarred baby was actually food, it’s not. Here is every reason in the world why jarred baby food is a scourge. (Bearer of bad news, but thankfully making your own is so easy, even busy parents can do it! I promise!)
This post will cover some of the basics, tips, and tricks I’ve learned. It won’t cover what your precious littles can and cannot eat at whatever age, because that’s up to you, and your family’s history with allergic reactions, and the researchers. I will say that salt, sugar, honey, and cow’s milk should be off the menu until they’re at least a year old, though!
As for equipment, I’ve had perfect luck with just a good blender, a fine-meshed sieve, and some rubber-bottomed ice cube days I snagged from the dollar store. Ohhhh, and tiny plastic food containers for storing. And freezer bags, which brings me to….
Storage (ie; Freeze that schnizz)
I’m not a Timelord but my freezer makes me feel like one. And, unlike us adults who must deal with the greying bits of pseudo-vegetable left in the crisper as the refrigerator slowly empties, his food gets made with the dewy youth of the grocery haul, where it remains forever young*, or until it gets to his tummy (or the floor). I pull out some cubes before I go to bed at night and baby’s menu for the next day is ultra-handled, and I get to be lazy and supermom at the same time. Or maybe just radmom. Whatever means I get to wear pajama pants all day.
*frozen cubes will actually last about 2 months, not forever. Ahem.
The only difficult part really is thinking about the freezing qualities of the food before you start, but MOST things freeze fine. Some don’t, and I’ll list them below, but do a bit of trial and error, and even if the texture changes, your baby will probably not notice at all.
“** The Does-Not-Freeze-Well List **“`
Potatoes, peppers, avocado, eggs, cucumber, soft tofu.
“** The Will-Freeze-Fine (if cooked and blended with other fruits/veg) List **“
Celery, greens/lettuce, herbs, radishes, dairy products.
If you don’t intend on freezing it, it’ll keep fine in the fridge for 3-4 days, tightly covered and kept clean (as in, no double dipping).
The fastest cooking method is steaming, and most vegetables are perfect candidates for it. It takes 2-10 minutes, tops. If the steaming water tastes good (and the vegetables are not known for heavy pesticide use), save it to thin down the purée when you’re blending it.
Fruits take well to cooking in a covered saucepan with a bit of water until they are well soft, also no more than 10 minutes usually. Sometimes I’ll throw in some dried fruits and spices at the beginning, and toss the whole thing in a blender afterwards with the cooking liquid.
Roasting can be a real treat for your little one, intensifying and sweetening flavours without using salt and sugar. If you’re using the oven to make dinner, throw a small tray of sweet potatoes or fennel or cauliflower tossed in a bit of olive oil alongside it, and suddenly you have another purée ready to blend with no effort.
Leftover Master Technique: dinner, puréed. That’s it.
Passing it through a mesh sieve at the end is of course optional, but I love doing it, and it makes the purée buttery smooth.
Basically any cooking method is fine as long it works for you and it’s not fried or dried or buried in ashes or pickled or something weird and time-consuming. You know what to do.
Flourishes that Will Make Your Baby Love Food
I’ve been using The Flavour Bible pretty extensively during this process, it’s like, the most fun you can have with a pantry. Not only is it cool to watch your baby understand the concept of “more than the sum of it’s parts” for the first time, but it’s a perfect way to explore flavour pairings for your own adult brain and save them for later. If you’re stuck for ideas, it’s the place to go. Also, Baby Foode is a wealth of actual recipes that are simple and creative, I recommend highly.
Trust your instincts and use what looks amazing at the time. Use what’s in season. Taste it, and if it blows you away, it will blow baby away. Sometimes simple is best. Sometimes it’s ok to stick with what they like. And sometimes, you can make them an off-the-wall combo or a facsimile of that restaurant dish you tried, just for the lols. There are no rules. If it’s terrible, you eat it, or you know, the dog.
Don’t forget interesting additions like nuts (soaked in cold water for a few hours beforehand if you’re just that organized, but who is??), dried fruits (hot water soak until soft), delicious fats to round things out (coconut oil, butter, olive, flax; anything healthy really), fresh herbs, touches of citrus or mild vinegar (a few drops will do), chiles & pepper & heat (I’m serious), anything that would make your own meal more palatable. They can handle it. They’s tough.
Let them play with it. Gush it around with their mitts, make rainbows out of corn and carrot and pears. Give them a whole egg yolk and watch their little scientist eyes light up. I’ll even admit here that whole pieces of food are better for playing with than purées (a biiiiiit easier to pick up, yes), but no reason they can’t paint (themselves, their chair, you) with the stuff. I get squeamish about it sometimes, but in the end it’s supposed to be good for their brains and I’m a sucker for brain development (aren’t we all?).
Involve them in the process. Let them examine a whole squash, or tomato, or kiwi. Cut it down the middle and show them how it transforms. Talk to them as you cook, tell them the names of the stuff and what you’re doing. Ask them what spices and herbs they might want (get their bitty noses right up to the jar!). Have them taste the food as you make it. Get their reaction right from out of the blender. Noodle’s not even scared of blender noise anymore.
3. Give Them Food Autonomy
If they don’t like something (IF, ahahaha, no they will definitely not like something), don’t push the issue, or they’ll grow up with horrible food hangups and totally blame you, at least that’s what I read somewhere so I’m TOTALLY an expert on this. But it doesn’t seem super polite, you know, to keep poking at their face after they’ve clearly told you that they’re not into it. Try again later, much later, they’ll thank you for it. My kid still hates oatmeal. C’est la vie.
He freaking loves everything else, though. Thanks puréeeees. ^.^